After his second public freeze up in about five weeks, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) fitness for office is under renewed scrutiny. But his quest to stay in leadership—or the quest of those around him to keep him in leadership, as it may be—could actually stem from a potential threat by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D).
Kentucky, until recently, was a state that allowed the governor to fill a vacancy, regardless of party. This led McConnell, now 81, to urge the Republican-led state legislature to pass a new bill in 2021 that requires an appointment of the same party. Now Beshear would be forced to fill a McConnell vacancy with a Republican. But in a recent column for Politico, Jonathan Martin said there’s growing pressure for Beshear to flout the newly passed law in light of McConnell’s health issues and appoint a Democrat anyway.
Beshear fueled this speculation by refusing to make clear that he’d follow the state law in the interview with Martin:
So I asked the Democratic governor — who, not coincidentally, is facing reelection this year against McConnell’s protege, state attorney general Daniel Cameron — directly: What would he do if there’s a Senate vacancy from Kentucky?
“I mean, it’s not vacant,” said Beshear. “I’ve talked to his people, he’s doing alright. He’s going to serve out his term.”
I asked the governor again.
“There’s not going to be a vacancy,” he said, again declining to answer. “That would be total speculation.”
The speculation is part of the equation, though. Like the many octogenarian politicians, people wonder if he’s up for the task of governing. Jezebel has long covered the ailing years of nonagenarian Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), whose decline has become very public since her bout with shingles. “Oh, I know what you....Well, I wish him well. He’s a strong man, and this is really when that kind of strength comes in. So: Say a prayer, cross my fingers, do it all,” she told a reporter back in May.
The reasons Democrats are afraid for Feinstein to resign parallel the issue with Mitch. If she does step down, Democrats in the Senate don’t have enough votes to replace her on the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee. This would leave the committee at a tie, and basically stop any future Biden judicial appointments to the federal bench. And this is before Democrats would be forced to wade into the messy primary race to replace Feinstein in 2024 and choose alliances among the multiple House members are currently running to replace her.
So we may be in a situation where elderly people in power who are clearly unfit for power are being held in power until their hearts literally stop beating, because their respective party is afraid their resignation would leave it less powerful. Great system we have here.